17 May Careers in The Environment and On the LA River
This year, FoLAR launched the River Steward Newsletter: a monthly student newsletter filled with volunteer and advocacy opportunities, educational videos, and a career advice section. The Career Spotlight section exposes students to different career paths in the environmental field and offers advice on how to get there. Thank you to our colleagues Wendy Katagi, Tom Ryan, and Felipe Escobar for sharing their knowledge and experience with our students. Read their advice below!
WENDY KATAGI – Watershed Planner
What is your job? I’m a watershed planner who oversees Stillwater Sciences’ Southern California practice, focusing on ecosystem restoration projects to protect our threatened and endangered native species.
What do you love most about your career? My favorite part of my job is the collaborative work we do to bring back steelhead and other native fishes! It’s so important to our communities to be good stewards of our precious resources and wildlife so that we and future generations can coexist in harmony with nature in perpetuity. When we bring back steelhead, we bring back healthy rivers and watersheds.
Do you have any advice for students pursuing a career in STEAM? We greatly need students to pursue their dreams—utilizing their gifts and talents to protect, restore, and educate others about the importance of watershed science, ecosystem restoration, and our threatened and endangered native species. My advice is to volunteer and intern with non-profits, consulting firms, and agencies who are dedicated to the same ideals and vision as much as you can so that you have a great foundation for making wise choices about where you want to work and why you want to work in a particular area.
THOMAS RYAN – Wildlife Biologist
“What is your job?” I actually have several jobs. My main job is as a wildlife biologist. I specialize in endangered species recovery. Most of my work is with endangered birds here in Southern California. Much of the native coastal scrub, riparian, sandy beach, and wetland habitat has been developed or impacted by human use.
I study the distribution and threats to these species and either work directly to reduce those threats or work with land managers and staff at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and State Parks to advise them on reducing threats and increasing nesting success of these species. I also work as an adjunct professor at Pasadena City College. After 30+ years in the field I think it is important to give back and help the next generation of biologists.
“What do you love most about your career?” I got into this because I love observing and working with animals in their habitats. I still wake up and look forward to the unknown and what I am going to see and find that day. When you work in the field no two days are ever alike. I like that adventure.
“Do you have any advice for students pursuing a career in STEAM?”#1 Try as many things as possible when you are still in college, and better yet in high school. There are science careers that you have never even considered that you may love. That will help you to do #2, which is to get as much practical experience as you can. Finally, #3 don’t put up with things like unpaid internships and bosses that don’t value and truly mentor you. A good boss or supervisor is also a teacher. I had many horrible and amazing bosses and I regret every minute I ever worked for the horrible ones. Make sure that you are learning and valued!
Tom Ryan will be leading bio-monitoring to detect bird habitats at our Summer 2021 CleanUp sites. Expect to see him in the future at FoLAR events and on our media channels.
FELIPE ESCOBAR – Community Organizing Director
“What is your job?” I’m a community organizer with Pacoima Beautiful— a grassroots environmental justice organization that provides education, impacts local policy, and supports local arts and culture in order to promote a healthy and sustainable San Fernando Valley. In this role, I connect and build relationships among community members to build a collective body that works to create and advocate for better communities.
“What do you love most about your career?” I love meeting and working with community members every day. Seeing community members transform from not being advocates to community leaders is a beautiful thing to see.
“Do you have any advice for students pursuing a career in advocacy?” Volunteer for non-profits and ask about helping out with upcoming community events such as meetings and rallies.
Thank you to The Confidence Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Coastal Conservancy, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Rose Foundation for supporting our education programs and the River Steward Newsletter.